Thursday, 9 July 2015

How Film Saved My Life


"Film saved my life", it's a pretty bold statement but I can assure you it's entirely true. Back in 2009 I was devastated by the deaths of two close family members in quick succession. The catastrophic grief caused by these losses tore my world apart and I quickly spiralled into a horrifyingly bleak world of anxiety, depression, self harm and body dysmorphic disorder. Reeling from the anguishing effects of bereavement and uncontrollable teenage hormones, I unrepentantly left college to take up residence under my king sized duvet in the hope that continual sleep would somehow dull the unbearable and ceaseless pain. Gradually cutting myself off socially I permanently retreated to the assured haven of my bedroom, which in turn became my security blanket over the next four years.  

Mentally imprisoned in my secluded refuge I became in frequent search of escapism, seeking a way to fill the few hours when I wasn't 'temporarily dead'. Film has always been a crucial part of my life and some of my fondest childhood memories stem from regular cinema excursions with my Dad. I fervently relished in these joyous occasions which became a custom staple during the periodic school holidays. During my fleeting college experience I opted to partake in the AS film studies course and given my adoration for all things film, I eagerly anticipated this to be the perfect harmony. How wrong I was. Instantaneously immersed into a world of analytical and theoretical perspectives my seemingly intellectual ineptitude pushed my already crippling sense of self worth to rock bottom.

Internally raging over my incapability to grasp film theory, I shifted my focus towards the filmic buffet on offer in my expansive blu-ray collection. Pushing my academic failure to one side I set about using film as a homeopathic remedy, culminating in an existential tool to dissect and anatomize my increasingly distressing thoughts. Refusing to be vocal about the chronic mental torment I was in, films such Girl, Interrupted, Prozac Nation and It's Kind of a Funny Story came to my attention, which identified that I was not alone. Realising that somewhere out there in the expansiveness of the globe someone had been through my pain and survived it was a shining beacon of hope that I desperately clung to.

During the years of self induced isolation I tentatively peered into the world of film criticism, thanks to the recommendation of my wonderfully charismatic film studies teacher Paul. It was a daunting new world but I quickly gorged on both print and online publications, marvelling at the range of content available. From Empire to Little White Lies I was captivated hook, line and sinker and a burst of passion swelled within my heart. It was the most responsive emotion I had in years and I knew then and there that this was the career I wanted to pursue. Next came the consumption of podcasts and my discovery of the transformative church of Wittertainment, mixing concise in depth reviews with humorous bickering it was essential listening that became the highlight of my week.

Fast forward six years later and my life has changed dramatically - those who follow me on social media will know that I recently got my first professional paid job in film criticism. This was a massive milestone and my biggest sense of achievement to date. I've had the opportunity to meet so many awe inspiring people from the word of film criticism who have been nothing but gracious and welcoming and the encouragement of two people in particular (they will know who they are) has been especially appreciated. 

I've finally found a space into which I belong and a profession I can hopefully call home. Whilst I may not be fully recovered from my health issues I do know one thing - if it wasn't for film (along with the right medical and therapeutic support) I most certainly wouldn't be here.
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6 comments

  1. What a thought-provoking, honest and brave piece of writing. The chase for a happy ending, or at least the determination to overcome - wow. This resonates in waves. Thank you.

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  2. What a lovely success story. And, you're right, it's so important to share such experiences as so many feel like they're on their own.

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  3. Very brave and inspiring post, Barry D x

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  4. I truly believe you have, are and will continue to inspire many through your work and genuine love of film! Zihuatanejo! :)

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  5. I wanted you to know when I feel down your post is what I seek out in the whole interweb. it is a powerful expression of everything that's good.

    I hope you're doing okay today because you're amazing. (Oh and also although I hate social media but your tweets are far too entertaining to lose)

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  6. Thanks for sharing that, great piece!

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